Mark Hamill is best known for playing cinema’s ultimate good guy in the “Star Wars” franchise. But as a voice actor, he’s played an impressive array of bad guys, from Batman’s complex arch-enemy the Joker to the comical Gadfly Garnett, the pink-hued thief in Disney Junior series “Miles From Tomorrowland,” and many more in between.
Hamill’s latest villain will be back to cause trouble for Guillermo del Toro’s “Trollhunters,” when Netflix premieres the final season of the animated saga, on Friday. The DreamWorks Animation series follows a teenager who becomes the protector of a race of trolls and other fantastic creatures that live beneath his city. He’s aided in his quest by two friends and trolls Aaarrgghh!!! (Fred Tatasciore) and Blinky, voiced by Kelsey Grammer.
Hamill joined the series in the second season as Dictatious, Blinky’s brother who turned to the dark side to serve the evil Gunmar in his quest to take over the world.
“Kelsey has one of the greatest voices. I wasn’t imitating Kelsey, but I had to sound like his brother,” says Hamill, describing how he created Dictatious’ voice. He talked with the show’s creators and asked them if there was a character actor that would be a good basis for him to build Dictatious on. “They said George Sanders from ‘All About Eve.’ He was Mr. Freeze on the Adam West ‘Batman.’ He’s a wonderful character actor. I’m not really imitating him, but I’m channeling his sort of grandeur.”
Hamill hadn’t seen the first season of “Trollhunters” when he was first approached to play Dictatious, “but the chance to work with Guillermo del Toro was just something I couldn’t resist.” Prior to going in to record his first episode, he got caught up. “I was amazed! It’s such a great show for the whole family,” he says. “The way it effortlessly moves from these fantastical realms to suburbia, it seems so unique to me. It’s the perfect definition of escapist entertainment. With the world being as difficult as it is and the tragedies we see in the news, you need a safe place. That’s why people want to go to Hogwarts or the Land of Oz or Middle Earth or even a Galaxy Far Far Away. It’s just a respite from every day life,” he continues. “This show is just so much fun, not only to watch but to be a part of.”
Hamill got a chance to be a fanboy when del Toro showed up for his first recording session. “I went, ‘Oh my God, you’re Guillermo del Toro!’ He said, ‘I know.’ He’s such a personable and a positive person; just a delight,” Hamill recalls. “Seeing ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Hellboy’ and all these movies he did, I thought, this guy could be a really complex, twisted, bizarre individual, and to find out he was so far from that was amazing to me.”
Voice acting holds a special place in Hamill’s heart. “One of the reasons I love it so much is that they cast with their ears, not their eyes, so you’re going to be able to do countless roles that you would never get if you were on camera because you’re just physically not right for them,” he explains.
Hamill’s done so many voice roles, that it’s difficult for him to remember them all. “On Twitter people say, ‘I love you in ‘Powerpuff Girls,’ and I say to myself, ‘Wait a minute, did I do the ‘Powerpuff Girls?’’ I’ll have to go to IMDb and check.” With animation, actors may not get to see the final product for up to a year after they’ve recorded their roles. “No one thinks to send you an email to say, ‘Hey, your ‘Fairly Odd Parents’ is on next Thursday.’ I’ve done so many of these that I’ve never seen because I just can’t keep up with them. But I love it.”
He’s a big fan of the voice acting community. “It is one of the most talented groups of people I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “These people are deeply talented actors, character actors, a lot of them from the theater, from stand up, from improv. It’s a tremendous talent pool and they are so welcoming.”
Hamill notes, however, that it can be a solitary profession, where you’re often in a recording booth by yourself. “Thank goodness there are people that can hold me by the hand [during recording]. I’ll do three to five [takes] in a row, always slightly different to give them choices because you’re really sort of providing jigsaw puzzle pieces that they’ll be able to assemble later.”
And he’s amazed by the way the final product comes out, like with “Trollhunters,” where he never recorded with Grammer, but had many scenes with him. “I saw a scene with me and Kelsey last night where I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s like we’re almost overlapping dialogue, like we’re in the same room.’”
To Hamill, that solitary part of voice acting is a blessing and a curse. “Like a musician, a lot of times you play off the other musicians, their rhythm, their intensity, their delivery, and it influences how you would respond. But it’s hard to complain when you see the finished product and it seems indistinguishable from the episodes where you work with the cast.”
“Trollhunters” wraps up with part three, but del Toro, Netflix, and DWA have more “Tales of Arcadia” in store for viewers with interconnected series “3 Below,” coming later this year, and “Wizards,” in 2019. And depending on how the final season of “Trollhunters” plays out, we may see more of Hamill’s Dictatious.
“I would love that,” says Hamill. “You can become so attached to these characters. I’ve had characters I’ve played that when it comes to an end, it’s like losing a family pet; you never stop missing them. But that’s the way of life for an actor: The play closes, the TV show gets canceled, the movie wraps.”